Sacramento, CA - The California legislature approved AB 30 (Price & Swanson), a bill lowering the voter registration age to 17. If signed by the Governor, this legislation could dramatically improve California's alarmingly low voter participation rate for young voters. Almost half of the eligible voters between 18 and 24 years of age were not registered to vote in 2004 (the most recent year for which data is available).
AB 30 is based on a signature idea
from the New America Foundation's Political Reform Program
. Steven Hill
, director of the Political Reform Program, said "registration is one of the largest barriers to voting. Citizens often become energized by candidates or issue campaigns in the last weeks of an election only to find they are not registered to vote."
AB 30 will create an option for young people who are 17 years or older to pre-register to vote (sometimes known as "advance" registration). When they turn 18, their registration will automatically become active. This bill would allow young people to be involved in the democratic process at an earlier age and make it more likely that they will remain engaged as they become adults.
In addition, current state law says that anyone who is 17 years old is eligible to pre-register if that individual will be 18 years old before the next election. AB 30 would extend pre-registration to all 17 year olds, making the treatment of 17 year olds uniform instead of having some who are eligible to pre-register while others are not. That in turn will make implementation of pre-registration more efficient and streamlined, and should lead to less confusion.
"Research has demonstrated that developing good 'political engagement' habits at a younger age will increase the likelihood of civic participation as an adult," said Hill. "AB 30 will help break the 'disengagement cycle' that often prevents young people from developing habits of participation that carry over into their adult years."
Allowing pre-registration of 17 year olds is a nonpartisan idea that has been passed in both GOP states like Texas and Florida (where it was signed into law by Florida governor Charlie Crist) and Democratic states like Hawaii, as well as swing states like Iowa and Missouri. Eight States have enacted pre-registration laws.About the New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.